The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK—Next Monday they will be dedicating the Franklin D. RooseveltFranklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Bridge between Lubec, Me., and Campobello Island.

The "beloved island" was what Mr. and Mrs. James Roosevelt called Campobello after they first discovered it in the summer of 1883, when they were looking for a good climate for their young son Franklin to spend his second summer. From that time on, part of every summer was spent on the island itself and sailing the waters nearby. James Roosevelt loved to sail and bought a two-masted schooner called the "Half Moon" in which he explored the coast and neighboring waters, and by the time little Franklin was seven he was presented with a small sailboat of his own.

One of the best sailors of the island, Captain Eddie Lank, taught the youngster the mysteries of the Bay of Fundy tides, how to ride the eddies along the shore when the wind gave out, and how to be a really good sailorman. In fact, Franklin Roosevelt was one day to be probably as good a navigator of the coast as could be found, with a very intimate knowledge of all the inlets and rivers and harbors, so that even in a fog he could usually get into port.

The island itself had been granted to Admiral William Owen, who had moved out there from Gr. Britain and built himself a white clapboard house on one of the promontories looking up the two rivers running down on either side of Eastport, Maine. He brought people out with him to settle the island over whom he had the power of life and death. He built a small church, and his daughters did an endless labor of love in cross-stitching the altar carpet and the runners leading up the aisle.

Gradually Admiral Owen and his family faded out of the picture, but the sturdy villagers and fishermen who came with him stayed on. They built their weirs to catch the herring, and in the two little American coast villages of Lubec and Eastport the herring industry thrived. Slowly greater prosperity came and grew.

The people wondered why the line between the U.S. and Canada had not run outside of Campobello Island. The legend, which may be entirely apocryphal, is that our negotiator, Daniel Webster, was given plenty of liquid hospitality before approving the line which ran between the mainland through the narrows where the tide was particularly swift. This left Campobello on the outside and part of Canada. But it has never seemed to matter a great deal, because the fishermen come from islands on both sides and they trade in Lubec and Eastport.

When my husband was a boy there was fine timber on the island, but forest fires and speculators have taken much of that away. You can still walk on deep mossy paths through dark mysterious woods and come out at a number of points on the other side of the island. If you face the rivers, you can have the most beautiful sunsets laid before you in an unbelievable panorama. If you stay a little distance from Lubec, you can almost think you are looking on Mt. St. Michel on the coast of France. There are an endless number of islands to visit, an endless number of waterways and constantly changing scenery, but everywhere the rocks come down to the pebbly beaches, with the pine trees clinging precariously as far as they can cling and the water lapping the beaches and the rocks below.

If you cross the island and look out towards the Bay of Fundy and Grand Manan island in the far distance where the gulls have their nesting place, you find yourself on the most beautiful crescent beach called Herring Cove. Here the fishermen put out their lobster pots. Inside the beach, which is more or less sandy, there used to be a lake called Glen Severn in which it was warm enough to swim. There are also ponds on the island which, when the sun reaches them, warm up and make pleasant swimming pools. But unless you are a hardy native, you had better stay out of the waters of the bay on either side or you will turn blue after a very few seconds.

My husband had two special trips which he enjoyed. One was in a canoe which he had bought from an old Indian chief named Tomah Joseph. It was a birch bark canoe, and only the skillful could maneuver it successfully. He would circle the island in the canoe, taking a whole day, and eat lunch up by Head Harbor light in a little inlet which gave so many fishing boats protection.

His other special challenge was to say to his young friends: "We will go around the island on foot, but nobody is permitted to leave the rocks and beaches." He knew, what his guests rarely did, that there would be at least two places where they would have to swim from one rock to another as the water surged in and then sucked out again. He always made merry if anyone gave up and climbed to the top—or, half way around the island, decided he had seen all he wished to see of the beaches and rocks and pine trees above.

When we lived there the one telephone, which could hardly be called a good connection, was at the postmistress' office in the village. There was no electric light, and the water supply for use in the house was somewhat sketchy and always restricted. Lamps had a horrible way of smoking, and going to bed by candle-light was no great joy to those who wished to read at night in bed. But you never had hay fever or any of the other allergies which beset people in summer climates. The sun was warm and delightful in the daytime, and at night your pine logs took the chill off the evening air. So it was always the "beloved island" and it remained so even in memory when my husband was no longer able, because of his attack of polio, to go there and live the life which he enjoyed.

Now there will be a bridge from Lubec to the island instead of the little ferry which always took our cars across in the later years. People will cross with ease, and there will be less and less division between the U.S. and Canada. Still, those of us who remember the past will have a nostalgic feeling for the days when you could spend a month or six weeks, virtually cut off from the world and all its troubles, enjoying to the full the "beloved island."


(Copyright, 1962, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 10, 1962

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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